Transportation deeply affects how we live our lives, yet few of us consider the history of our highways and bus systems. Nonetheless, transportation has a history that is tied to other profound changes in American life. The exhibit ‘America On the Move’ at the National Museum of American History covers advancements in transportation from 1876 to 1999. It catalogs the beginnings of trains and automobiles. There is a section devoted to the evolution of boats and naval technology. Beyond technical innovation, the exhibit explores how transportation is related to the structure of society.
Below are some of the transportation induced social changes the exhibit explores in depth:
- How the development of refrigerated train cars influenced food availability.
- The beginnings of public transport and its relation to the suburbs and commuting.
- How public transport was affected by consumer preference for the automobile.
- How schoolbuses led to the demise of the one-room schoolhouse.
Actual train engines tower over visitors, creating an immersive and intimidating setting. Machine fans will enjoy the beautifully painted old school trains and cars. These, in my opinion, are far more aesthetically pleasing than their modern day counterparts. Additionally, lifelike figurines positioned throughout the exhibit add to the immersive feel. The models create scenes of train passengers, grocery transport, bicycle riding, and children going to school. All the figurines are the same gray shade with minimal facial details, which makes them reminiscent of ghosts. As you move through the exhibit, the pale figurines take on an eerie quality that makes you feel you might be interrupting their netherworld doings.
Whether you drive, bike or navigate the bus and metro systems transportation plays an integral role in your life. ‘America on the Move’ asks visitors to consider what structures make our lifestyle possible. It further provokes patrons to think about how our choices regarding transportation will affect lifestyles in the future. How do you want to get around? How long do you want your commute to be?
Travel brings questions about transportation to the forefront. While you contemplate transportation for your next Washington DC vacation, consider staying at this DC lodging. Our unique historic bed and breakfast is located only a short walk from the Dupont Circle Metro Station, allowing easy access to the sites.
The National Museum of American History is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.